The Best Way to Serve & Enjoy Whiskey According to Chicago’s Top Bars

Differentiating in usage and entity, taste and presentation, background and culture, Whiskey is a prominent liquor, seating high and proud as one of the most distinguished beverages in the world. It speaks of origin, traveling through various cultures that each leave a unique mark, and serves as the centerpiece for all things community. Parties, banquets, porch sips in the evening, or winding down after a workday, Whiskey holds true to its original name, “water of life”.

Whether you’re a whiskey snob or beginner, prefer Aberlour or Maker’s Mark, spell it Whisky or Whiskey, like it sweet or savory, in a cocktail or straight, every day or only when boozy holidays occur (St. Patrick’s Day), there’s no one way to enjoy whiskey–but, there just might be the best way. We asked four whiskey bars in Chicago (gathering various perspectives from top bartenders, bar managers and more) three questions on their favorite whiskey and what they feel is to the best way to drink Whiskey, as well as, incorporate it in a cocktail. 

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So let’s settle this dispute once and for all.  

 

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Easy Bar

Easy Bar
Photo Credit: Megan Osterhout

1944 West Division Street

Unassuming by design, Easy Bar is a low-key, laidback dive bar, with awesome drink deals and fun vibes. This Wicker Park gem is surprisingly spacious with decorative lights, comfy seats, outdoor seating, a great selection of beers, and tasty cocktails. We asked Bartender Melissa Spalding her favorite way to drink and enjoy whiskey.

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What is your favorite whiskey and why?

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Spalding: Maker’s Mark. It’s rich and full bodied but has a softness to it and finishes smooth. A little oak, a little vanilla. Yum. It’s also not pretentious and every bar carries it. Overall, it’s a nice, approachable, middle-of-the-road whisky.

 

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How do you like to drink your favorite whiskey? 

Spalding: Neat or with a few ice cubes.

 

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What’s your favorite way to incorporate your favorite whiskey into a drink/cocktail?

Spalding: Boulevardier, my favorite cocktail. A play on the Negroni, it composes equal parts whiskey, Campari and sweet vermouth with an orange peel garnish. It’s my go-to in the cold Chicago winters. It’s the perfect cocktail. Also, I’m weird and like to eat the orange peel at the very end. It’s cold and has been swimming in that delicious drink… makes my tongue tingle. YUM!

 

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Hubbard Inn

Hubbard Inn
Photo Credit: Madee Moran

110 West Hubbard Street

Historic with a contemporary edge, this dim, multi-level gastropub is a romantic hideaway and an impeccable ambiance. Vintage cocktails to complement their classic style, Hubbard Inn is a sophisticated venue worth venturing to on any night and best experienced with nearby parking. We asked Bartender and Director of Marketing & Specials Events, Joe Proppe, his favorite way to drink and enjoy whiskey.

 

What is your favorite whiskey and why?

Proppe: When it comes to whisk(e)y, I tend to lean towards the scotch category. I’ve recently discovered Aberlour Single Malt Scotch Whisky and it’s become a fast favorite. Aberlour is not smokey like many would expect from a scotch, and I’m really enjoying the spicy, fruity flavors of the 16 Year Old.

 

How do you like to drink your favorite whiskey?

Proppe: I tend to add a splash of water to my dram of Aberlour. The water takes the edge off and I can better appreciate the flavors of the scotch.

 

What’s your favorite way to incorporate your favorite whiskey into a drink/cocktail?

Proppe: While I really just enjoy my dram of whisky with a splash of water, one of my favorite ways to incorporate Aberlour into a cocktail is by making a Rob Roy. It’s similar to a Manhattan in that it’s mixed with Sweet Vermouth and Angostura Bitters, but it uses scotch rather than a rye or bourbon whiskey. The slight sweetness of both the Aberlour 12 Year Old and 16 Year Old seem to work well in the Rob Roy.

 

Drawl Southern Cookhouse & Whiskey Room

Drawl Chicago
Photo Credit: Victoria Kent

2423 North Clark Street

A sophisticated southern charm with New American eats, and good ole’ comforts of the south, Drawl is an elegant whiskey bar to put on your go-to list and easy to park nearby. Featuring a cozy Whiskey room and a precise Beverage Program that offers over 70 different bourbons, whiskeys, and rye, whiskey lovers can’t go wrong here. We caught up with Aletta Valencia, General manager and head of Whiskey room and full-bar dining. 

 

What is your favorite whiskey and why?

Valencia: Something that’s recently become my favorite is  W.L. Weller 12 year, which is a wheated Bourbon. Another one is Rock Hill Single Barrel Bourbon, which is higher proof, with a little bit of a backbone, but same smooth deliciousness.

 

How do you like to drink your favorite whiskey?

Valencia: Usually a classic and simple tin, depending on my mood, I may put in a drop of a cube, usually if it’s after a long day of work.

 

What’s your favorite way to incorporate your favorite whiskey into a drink/cocktail?

Valencia: I like it pretty classic — Sazerac which is a traditional New Orleans cocktails, abstract and rye, with bits of bitter, stirred with ice without ruining the spirit of the spirit, old fashioned. Overall, I prefer keeping it simple.

 

Parlay At Joy District

Parlay At Joy District
Photo Credit: Madee Moran

112 West Hubbard Street

Parlay At Joy District is an electric sports bar with youthful vigor. Located in a nightclub with nearby parking, this bar is the ultimate partying scene and caters to a generally diverse crowd. Despite its unique spin, Parlay goes back to its roots with a classic. We asked Bar Manager Stephen Venia his favorite to drink and enjoy whiskey.

 

What is your favorite whiskey and why?

Venia: Angel’s Envy Bourbon. The whiskey is finished in port casks and makes it very smooth and drinkable by itself.

 

How do you like to drink your favorite whiskey?

Venia: I prefer to drink Angel’s Envy one of two ways. To better taste the whiskey, I like it on the rocks using a “large rock” ice cube, which keeps the whiskey chilled but doesn’t overly dilute it. On the other hand, an Old Fashioned is one of my favorite whiskey cocktails for its history and simplicity. Angel’s Envy Bourbon, Angostura Bitters and a Demerara syrup is how I enjoy drinking mine.

 

What’s your favorite way to incorporate your favorite whiskey into a drink/cocktail?

Venia: I like using Angel’s Envy to make a classic Paper Plane cocktail. The Angel’s pairs well with Aperol and Amaro to create a refreshing Aperitivo.

 

 

 

 

What is your favorite way to drink whiskey? Comment below!

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